Are we Parenting the Outdoors Out of Our Kids?

I was watching a group of young kids recently – aged five and younger. And something struck me – they WANTED to be outside. They wanted to run and jump and climb mountains (or at least hills). They didn’t think twice about the weather or the inconvenience of bugs or sun or wind or massive amounts of bison scat their mothers were trying to keep them away from.

I know not all kids are like that – some are bothered by weather and bugs and all that comes with it. But, most aren’t, at least at different stages of development. It got me thinking – do we have a hard time getting out kids outside because, as parents, it’s easier to keep our kids inside and we train them accordingly?

It’s easy to keep them contained with the walls of our home. We know where they are, what they are being exposed to and what they are doing. The outdoors is less predictable, less controllable. It challenges us to keep tabs on them, and challenges them to discover and learn and use their body to move.

And that’s exactly why it’s so important for them (and US!!) to be entwined in the wild that is the outdoors. Because it pushes us out of our comfort zone and keeps us sharp and aware and fit and happy!

But, it’s not the easier route all the time.

We have things to do, tasks to complete. Housework or emails to respond to or projects to finish call to us, and it’s usually easier to bring the kids inside too where we can keep better tabs on them. We let them watch a show or two, ask them to entertain themselves with indoor toys, and suddenly that’s their routine and their normal.

We choose to expose them to “virtual babysitters” like an iPad or video game, and it’s easy for them to quickly get sucked into an enticing past time that keeps them quiet.

It’s a slippery slope.

And there’s a balance for everything, and sometimes life just happens. But, how can we expect to have well-rounded, healthy kids if we are always looking to take the easy way out?

Let’s challenge each other this summer, when the weather is more inviting to get beyond the walls and out the doors. We all need accountability. We all need support and a village.

Let’s make outdoor time the normal, what they expect, what we look forward to.

What do your kids do best with as far as getting outside? Time in the yard? Playground with friends? Bike rides? Hikes? Leave a comment and help inspire us all!

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6 thoughts on “Are we Parenting the Outdoors Out of Our Kids?”

  1. My goal this summer is to get outside each day in the morning to the park, biking, or hiking. Come home, eat lunch, naps (for the youngest and me while my oldest plays Legos or watches a little TV), and then have the backyard pool out in the afternoon when it’s hot. They will play for HOURS with the pool out, and some days we plan to do outings to my sister’s neighborhood pool, but that’s much more effort and one of the times where I usually take the easy way out with the backyard pool! Looking forward to the #takeahike challenge!

    1. Yes – we always try to get out first thing in the morning too – makes our day go so much better 😉

  2. Love this thought. I do sometimes think it is harder to take kids outside for the reasons you mentioned, but the more I do it, the easier it becomes! And it’s actually sometimes easier for me to parent outside than inside now! The more I do it, the more routine it becomes. We spend much of our days outside. I have made it my goal this year that when they ask to go outside to say yes we can! (Unless it’s a thunderstorm or dangerous weather). But we had fun times when it was below 10 degrees out and in rain with puddles. We dressed appropriately and monitored time out so that they didn’t get too cold and it was GREAT! The exploration and what we learned about ourselves, each other, nature, etc.

    I try to mix it up. They love to ride their bikes, play in the yard on the swingset, explore in creeks and hike, naturalist led programs followed by exploration, and go on longer bike rides pulled in a trailer. I try not to focus on one thing too much and I also link what we focus on to nature programs or our topic of learning for the week or month. Focus last couple weeks was on rain and water cycle, before that was butterflies and frogs, now this we we started on flowers and cicadas. (We are homeschooling preschool currently and wow! it works) We also take our reading outside to the hammock or swingset fort and pretend to be animals and do animal activities, or play with plastic or stuffed animals in their environment, etc. Science experiments and painting are great outside for less mess to clean. And using nature to make pictures and paint has been fun too!

    Looking forward to the ideas everyone has to share!

    1. Hi Natalie – good clothing really does make all the difference, right?!? And totally agree to mix it up 🙂 Makes ALL the difference!

  3. Great points, as ever. My 10-year-old watched the Persil ad on how prison inmates get more outdoor time than kids and was horrified. She does like being outside but this made her feel like she should take advantage of being outside even more than before – because she could. Sometimes she’ll come back from school and tell me, “Mom, can we go outside?” And I’m happy (usually) to take a break with her an d go for a walk or a bike ride. We’ve gotten into foraging recently and she and I forage for wild edibles at the local park. She loves it! And yes, most kids aren’t bothered by bugs or the weather. They are bothered when you tell them that it’s time to pack it up and go home, after they’ve been outside all afternoon, because it’s seriously fun.

    1. Oh how interesting about the prisoners! I think they should get lots of outdoor time too….but really who shouldn’t?!?! And you’re totally right – it IS fun!

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